How do you access any information online? Few taps and swipes? It all feels effortless, right? The process is simple for most of us. However, this convenience is not universal. For people with disabilities, navigating digital spaces can be a daunting task due to inaccessible designs that persist across platforms.
For example, individuals with visual impairments may have to rely on screen readers to engage with information online. But, poorly designed content without proper image labels or alternative text makes the content inaccessible to assistive technologies.
Similarly, individuals with motor disabilities may face difficulties in using touch-screens or small buttons on devices. Lack of customizable settings for alternative input methods can affect their ability to operate devices smoothly.
This lack of accessibility can be attributed to factors such as lack of awareness, perceived limited user base, time and budget constraints, lack of communication, and so on. In most cases, the conversation about digital accessibility is simply bypassed. To initiate these crucial conversations Karkhana Samuha hosted a table discussion and a design thinking challenge. These two events brought together a diverse group of professionals, including designers, web developers, software engineers, educators, and social workers.
The table discussion focused on impacts of digital divide, concept of universal design, and perspectives on digital inclusion. Karkhana Samuha’s members also shared some small steps taken for inclusivity in everyday work. For example, classifying headings and subheadings in reports so it aids screen-readers better. Adding alternate texts to images shared on social media and adding subtitles on YouTube videos.
On other hand, the design thinking challenge ‘AccessAbility’ encouraged creating solutions that enhance the digital experience for individuals with dyslexia, visual impairment, ADHD, autism, or hearing loss. Some prototypes made were adjustable text font extensions, AI-integrated PDF readers, and text-to-speech assistance.
Moreover, the participants were inspired to advocate for change within their organizations. One software engineer said, "I’ll make sure to share these ideas with my colleagues on making our apps and websites accessible to people with disabilities." Another designer expressed a newfound commitment for inclusive solutions, stating, "I will surely be creating something to address at least one of the disabilities."
While we may still have a long way to go, with every step taken, we move closer to a future of inclusive digital world where everyone can participate, thrive, and experience boundless opportunities. Together, we can break down the barriers and challenge the status quo. Let’s all start doing what we can today!